Tag Archives: prayer

What is Lent?

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Lent is the 40 day journey (excluding Sundays) set aside in the church calendar in preparation for Easter. The time spent during this period is to be devoted to prayer, repentance, and self -reflection of one’s life. Although not every church or denomination observes Lent, many Christians choose to observe this season as a way to keep their focus and shift their thoughts on the forthcoming death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is not specifically mentioned in scriptures and therefore is not a command or requirement.

The rules for fasting during the Lent season vary from denomination and geographical location. Generally, those who fast during the Lent season, fast six days a week over the course of six weeks. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and was instituted to bring the exact number of fasting days before Easter to 40. The types of food and drink people fast from also vary but generally include meat, animal products, and soda. In some religions, the fasting modifications have relaxed drastically to make the process more simple and easy. Today though, Christians are still encouraged to give up something for Lent as a form of self-denial.

Another, less popular, Lent tradition is to limit your meals to just one per day. Traditionally, this meal would be eaten in the evening or at 3pm and should be void of meats and dairy. The absence of dairy products led to the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday) and the blessing of the Easter eggs. The Lent practices for fasting have evolved overtime to allow for additional meals for strength as well as eating fish, other meats, and dairy.

Does the number 40 sound familiar? The number 40 holds special significance for Christians. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai in preparation to receive the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights before the Lord appeared to him on the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). And the most importantly, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness fasting while continually being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:2). Ash Wednesday also symbolizes the beginning of Jesus’ 40 day fasting and prayer while in the wilderness.

The choice to observe Lent should be a personal decision. When deciding what to give up for Lent, do so with a grateful and humble heart. Don’t give up something that doesn’t take effort or act like a Pharisee and look for loopholes in the guidelines. Fasting without the desire to renew your relationship with Christ is a form of blasphemy. Whether you fast from something small, give up your meals during the day, or add something to your schedule during this season, the effects of atonement and self-discipline will astound you and your relationship with our Savior will forever be changed.

While the fasting practices have changed over the years, the intent for the Lent season has remained the same – to repent of your personal sins, to renew your faith and commitment to the Church, and to prepare your heart for the return of Jesus Christ. How do you strengthen your relationship with Christ during the Lent season?

Here are some great ways for your family to celebrate Lent together:

  • Begin a Lenten devotional that accommodates the whole family.
  • Read your Bible and be intentional about memorizing scriptures.
  • Simplify your schedules and eliminate luxuries.
  • Serve others with the hope of sharing Christ.
  • Replace urges with time spent in prayer.
  • Walk humbly and keep your focus on Jesus.  Don’t publicize your Lent practices and bring the attention on yourself.  This time is about reflection on Christ, not your personal accomplishments.

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What is Ash Wednesday?

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ash wednesdayAsh Wednesday celebrates the beginning of the Lent season, the 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday. This day is celebrated on the seventh Wednesday leading up to Easter and follows Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday).   This season is meant to spend time reflecting on your personal life and penance for your sins.  The 40 day Lenten journey leads us to the ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ’s resurrection and atonement for all of man’s sins.

The Ash Wednesday ceremony, originally called dies cerinum which means the day of ashes, dates back to the 8th century.  But the season of “repentance” dates back to biblical times.  In Leviticus 16:34, the Lord established an annual day of repentance for the Israelites saying, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”  In the old tradition, those offenders who had committed grievous sins would come before the priest wearing sackcloth.  Wearing rough material or animal hair was meant to show an outward demonstration of an inward sorrow and shame.  The priest would then sprinkle ashes on their head and bless them.  They were expected to spend the next 40 days in penance and reconciliation and would return to the priest on Maundy Thursday for their first communion following their repentance.

Christians today have been blessed with the blood of Jesus Christ who made the greatest atonement for our sins.  However, many Christians continue the tradition with a time of fasting and prayer.  We spend this time of year bringing our hearts back in accordance with the will of God and giving thanks for the atonement made by Jesus Christ.

During an Ash Wednesday observance service, the cross is marked in ashes to the forehead of each church member to signify an inward repentance.  This process is meant to humble our hearts and remind us of the sacrifices made for our eternal life with Christ.  The service brings our focus back to the mission of the Church and the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf.  It is encouraged to spend time reflecting on the last year of your life and giving a greater commitment to God and the Church.

The ashes are a symbol of man’s mortality and remind us that life is not guaranteed. Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”   Traditionally, the ashes used in an Ash Wednesday ceremony come from burning the palm branches used in the Easter service the previous year.  The ashes are blessed with holy water and rest with burning incense to create a pleasant scent until the next Ash Wednesday service. 

Because Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are not specifically mentioned in the Bible, Christians are free to observe this time as they desire.  The most popular method for celebration is fasting, or giving something up that would be difficult during the Lent season.  Others add an activity such as a daily devotional.  Both are great methods that lead you constantly back to the Lord, reminding us of our need for repentance and the need for our Savior.  Any activity chosen during this season is meaningless if not done with the intent for spiritual renewal and repentance.

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How Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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vday1Valentine’s Day… dare I say it’s probably a more loathed holiday versus a loved holiday, contrary to its theme and modern intent?  Christians have been very bold in their disgrace towards the commercialization of Easter and Christmas; why are we not as vocal about Valentine’s Day?  And should we?  Although it is a holiday aimed at sharing love with those closest to us, is it a secular celebration?  What are the origins of Valentine’s Day and are there really Christian foundations in this holiday? Is there any harm in cupid, red hearts, candy, flowers, and romantic dinners?

At one time, a pre-Roman pastoral festival known as Lupercalia was observed from February 13th through the 15th.  This three-day festival time of celebration was acclaimed to refine the city, deter evil spirits, and increase health and fertility.  As Christianity continued to grow, the festival was adapted over time by different cultures and people began to add their own customs.

The patron St. was a priest and physician in ancient Rome and was well-known for his kindness and generosity towards others.  He spent much of his time caring for the poor, performing good deeds, and healing the sick and afflicting.  He was arrested by the Roman emperor Claudius Gothicus (268-270 AD) during the time of Christian persecution.  During his time under arrest he healed his attending officer’s blind, adopted daughter which led to the officers’ family’s conversion to Christianity.  Gothicus heard of these “deeds” and ordered St. Valentine to be beheaded on February 14th.

While the Lupercalia festival was still highly respected, it was Pope Gelasius who officially added February 14th as a holiday on the church list in 496 AD, known as St. Valentine’s Day.  From that point forward, this day was honored and celebrated in memory of St. Valentine for his life of service.  The new name of the Lupercalia festival was easily adapted and new elements to the holiday were quickly added into the fold.  The emphasis on the holiday was never meant to reflect romantic love but to honor St. Valentine and mirror agape love and goodwill towards all people.  It was never about cards, flowers, and chocolate candy.  But somehow the commercialization has managed to taint the holiday and steer our focus away from loving others in need.

God is not opposed to us loving others; it’s quite the opposite.  He commands us to love others unconditionally.  God wants us to show love to others through words and actions, Let us not love in word or talk bur in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18.  While God wants romantic love shared between a husband and wife, He wants us to show love to others as well.  We should be doing both year-round, not just on a single day when an overly-commercialized holiday says we should be showing love to our significant other.  It should be our mission to love others at all times and make sure our actions show God’s love.

Romans 15:13 says this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is the highest and most respected form of love.  As Christians, we certainly need to love and honor the spouse God blessed us with, but we need to do away with our love for “things”.  Let’s celebrate the holiday in memory of Saint Valentine – by doing something special and anonymously for someone in need.  Spend the day and your money modestly on others.

Click HERE for some Valentine family games that celebrate God’s love and HERE for Valentine devotionals.

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What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?

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031Tattoos, at one time, were thought to be a mark of rebellion, a sign of adulthood and the freedom to make your own choices with your own body and no parent could stop you. As the years have progressed, Christians have continued with this trend of new-found independence and started putting Christian tattoos on their body to represent their faith and belief in the Bible and Jesus Christ. Others believe that all tattoos, regardless of their significance or symbol of your religion, are a mark of the beast and should be strictly forbidden. These theories confuse both Christians and non-Christians causing judgment to easily swell. The question remains – What is tattooing? And what does God say about tattoos? Are there really such things as Christian tattoos or is this an oxymoron?

The Bible speaks of tattoos (some translations use the word “marks”) as early as the beginning of time. In Leviticus 19, the Lord is speaking to Moses, giving the command that he must go and share with the Israelites; “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.’” This command seems simple enough! The origin of the tattoo was rooted and practiced in the demonic and pagan realm. The tattoos were given during religious ceremonies and were intended to put the bodily soul in accordance with supernatural forces. Many times dancing and chanting were also done during these tattoo ceremonies to exorcise demons. Regardless if your Bible uses the word tattoos or marks, the context of the word heeds a warning to the Israelites from joining occult practices and entering false religions. Be assured, this is STILL a warning for us today!!

The Bible also teaches us that our bodies are a holy temple for the Lord Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” As believers, the Holy Spirit resides in our bodies as our conscience and voice of God and Truth. The scripture is very clear about this issue – our bodies are not our own. We must treat our bodies respectably and we must pray extremely hard before making any kind of permanent mark on the Lord’s dwelling.

And what is the stuff about the “mark of the beast”? 2 Timothy 3:1 warns us, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.” Many believe we are living in the end times and that even today “cutting the flesh” allows satan and the demonic realm to easily enter your body. This blood-letting practice has origins in the cultic dominion (as stated above). We even read in the New Testament about Legion (Mark 5:1-9) who was possessed by demons and attempted to cut himself with stones to unleash the evil spirits locked inside his body. This serves as another illustration that mentions the cutting of the skin and its relationship with the occult and the demonic origins.

This command is not just an outdated Old Testament law. This is a moral law and was applicable then as much as it is now. It is just as important as many others given to Moses to share with the Israelites – do not make idols for yourselves (Lev 5:4), do not steal (Lev 5:11), and do not make your daughter a prostitute (Lev 5:29), among many others.

If you are a Christian with a tattoo, spend time in prayer asking God to cleanse your soul and use the mark on your body as a testament to his love and grace. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Have faith and ask God to use you for His greater purpose. If you are struggling with the desire for a new tattoo, spend time in prayer. Then spend more time in prayer. Ask God what He wants marked on His dwelling place. Ask God what He wants His money spent on. Are you willing to take that chance to allow evil spirits to enter your soul through this practice of blood-letting?

As a reminder, do not judge those who have tattoos. We do not know where their heart was when they received their tattoos and we do not know if they had received the word of God about this very issue. We cannot testify for them about receiving the facts and origins of tattoos. We must simply pray for them and ask God to use them to bring others to Christ.

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A Jesus Lovers New Year’s Resolution

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newyear2It’s the end of another year and the majority of us are eagerly awaiting the chance for new beginnings and blessings.  We certainly never look at the new year as a time for added stress, pain, or sickness.  In our anticipation and hope of new things to come, we tend to make new year’s resolution – to lose weight, cut out caffeine, go to the gym, work less, sleep more, find a new job, etc.

The question I ask of you as we close out 2013…. What does Jesus want from you?  He very well may be calling you to cut calories, lose weight, and exercise.  He may be tugging at your heart to work less and be at home with your family more.  But what does He want from your heart?  How can your life glorify His name in this coming year?  What changes does God want from you that will ultimately lead you to a closer relationship to Jesus Christ?

Here is a list of New Year’s resolutions all Christians need to work on in 2014:

Forgive more – As a forgiven sinner, you are required to forgive sinners.  Let go of other people’s mistakes and shortcomings, even if those decisions directly affected your life.  Satan will remind you of the pain others have inflicted on you but YOU are a forgiven sinner and are called to forgive the sins of others.  Remind yourself that you have not always been a Christian and that you too have hurt others.  We have all fallen short and we will all fail again.  Pray for those who have hurt you, that they are blessed by God and that those blessings change their lives.  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Pray always – It’s so simple to say “pray more” but the thought of praying all the time can seem very daunting.  Rest assured, if you miss an opportunity to pray, you must not give up!  Begin by praying every morning or evening and slowly add in other specific times in your day devoted to prayer.  You will soon notice how your prayers shift from specified times to daily conversations with God throughout your day.  Make sure you also add a few minutes of reflection time to listen to what God says to you about your prayers.  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Quit worrying – We begin to worry when we feel as if we are not in control.  The truth is, very seldom do we have full control over anything.    When we allow worry to seep into our lives, we are saying to those around us that we are helpless and have no one to turn to.  But as Christians, we must have faith in God and faith in His plan.  Find the good in every situation and be thankful for what God has already blessed you with.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Give more – Give more of your time, your money, and your effort.  Pray about this specifically and see where God wants you to give.  Does he want you to give more of your money to your church or a mission?  Does He want you to give more of your time and volunteer efforts?  Does He simply want you to give your family more quality time?  Whatever it is that He leads you to give, give wholeheartedly and give as if you are giving to the Lord.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Go to church – Attending church should not be a Sunday morning visit when times are hard.  Church is a time for weekly reflection and an energy boost.  It’s a time for us to put aside the craziness of life and refocus on Christ and His will for our lives.  Church is a time for Christians to fellowship with other believers and together build the kingdom of God.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Learn more – Read your Bible this year, start a devotional, or commit to reading that book your spouse has asked you to read.  If you’ve already read the Bible in its entirety, read it again to gain more knowledge.  You cannot go wrong opening your Bible and reading scripture!  But there is power when reading with other Christians and discussing life together.  “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15

Judge less – Learn how to judge righteously and ask God to show you when you’re sinfully judging.  Practice the art of judging the sin and not the sinner.  Find the good in every person and in every situation, even if it’s simply acknowledging that God will use that situation for His glory.  Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God.  We will all stand on even ground before God one day; your sin is no less than any other man’s.  “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

Be more gracious – Again, find the good in every person and in every situation.  Treat others with kindness and respect.  Even if we don’t think they deserve it, they really do.  Don’t assume the worst in others, even if their track record shows otherwise.  Give people the benefit of the doubt, always.  Complement those who frustrate you, and add a smile.  Work on changing your heart towards others and people will begin to seem far less threatening to you.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Plant seeds – Write down a list of people who are non-believers and commit to praying for them over this next year.  Make it your goal to talk to them about Jesus Christ and his unending love for them.  Invite them to church, offer to pray for them, connect with them regularly and allow them the opportunity to see how Christ is working in your own life.  The outcome is amazing to see how God uses YOU and your everyday circumstances to change the lives of others.  You plant the seed and watch as God grows new believers.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Go on a mission – Your mission trip doesn’t necessarily need to be across the world to a third world country.  While that is definitely an incredible experience, your mission field can be right here in your hometown.  Your mission field is the path you drive to work and the places you run your errands.  To be on a mission for Christ is to tell others of Christ and bringing His Good News to non-believers.  Begin by asking strangers, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”  Spend time everyday preparing for your mission work and ask God to show you where your work needs to be done.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20

To put our focus on Christ rather than ourselves is ultimately what God wants for our lives.  He wants us to depend on Him.  When we do these things, our lives begin to take on a new meaning and good things begin to happen.  We will still suffer loss and heartache, setbacks and pain.  But life becomes bearable when we walk with our Savior and allow Him to lead the way.

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A Life Well Lived 2014 Day Planner and Prayer Journal Review and Giveaway

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I confess… I’m the housewife and mother who refuses to give up her day planner.  Yes, I like to flip the pages, write on the paper, use different color ink and / or highlighters.  Some technology gurus may even call this blasphemy and convince me I can do the same thing or even better with today’s technology!  I’m not even ashamed to admit that I spend quite a bit of time each December seeking out the best planner for our family.  My planner must be durable with plenty of room to write and ample space for a family of six and all of their appointments and activities.  I spend hours searching for the perfect planner and have even thrown some out and started over after the year has started because it simply didn’t fit the needs for our family.  Finding the perfect planner is a very important decision for us and one that I thoroughly enjoy accomplishing.

The Judgmental Christian has been blessed with the opportunity to review and give away A Life Well Lived 2014 Day Planner and Prayer Journal.  I’ve been sitting here with the planner and journal for almost two hours now and am simply amazed at all this planner offers.  It is very apparent that much thought and hours of prayer were put into the planner and journal from the very first page.

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The focus of the new 2014 planner is Getting Life Right.  The planner begins with the testimony of Jesus’ perfect earthly life and His desire for us to “live a holy life in preparation of eternity with God.”  When the first words of a planner grasp my heart and make me yearn to be more like Christ, I know it’s going to be a winner!  This company is not only concerned about selling fabulous planners but making sure we are living according to scripture and getting our schedules aligned with God’s desire for our life.  The makers of A Life Well Lived want to see us dedicated to serving Christ and reaping the rewards God has in store for us.

The planner then opens to the Seven Steps to Discipleship that help us to seek and know God’s will for our lives.  There are daily action steps provided as well as corresponding scriptures to these steps that help guide us towards daily growth in our Christian walk.  I simply cannot think of a better way to start off this new year and again each day than to evaluate my relationship with Christ and then to begin putting into place those steps necessary that will help me reach the goal of becoming a better disciple for Christ.

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The planner is divided into 365 daily pages.  My initial thought was that maybe this was too much space, even for a girl who likes writing and doodling areas in my planner.  But upon closer look, the planner becomes more than just a calendar of events.   It’s your devotional, a prayer journal, and calendar all in one.  There are words of wisdom and daily scripture readings. There are daily suggestions that encourage growth in your spiritual discipleship.  A place is set aside for daily prayer concerns and praises, and directly across is additional writing space for your goals and tasks God has placed on your heart for the day.  And of course there is ample space for your daily appointments!

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Each new week has a different theme that assists in your Christian growth.  Some of my favorites include priorities, witnessing and ministry, debt and money management, family and home, accountability, humility, mentoring and leadership, spiritual disciplines, tithing and giving, contentment and peace, and forgiveness and salvation.  The daily scriptures, words of wisdom, and discipleship suggestions all work together with the weekly theme.

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Other remarkable features include:

  • Daily Bible readings that allow for the Bible to be read in one year
  • Seven Steps of Discipleship bookmark
  • Month-at-a-Glance pages as well as a Month-in-Review pages
  • A guide to help create a personal mission statement
  • Action steps for achieving financial goals and success
  • A reference guide for accomplishing goals in your life
  • A list of suggestions for Random Acts of Kindness
  • Daily Proclamation page

The mission statement of A Life Well Lived reads, “Our mission at A Life Well Lived is the Great Commission.  We exist to revive the Christian faith and rebuild the broken wall of discipleship by helping as many people as possible grow in their relationship with Christ in such a way that they are inspired to participate with us in Jesus’ final instruction.”  I believe they have done a remarkable job of growing disciples for Christ.  I am so very excited to begin the new year with a daily focus on God’s will for my life and organizing my life’s plans according to God’s will for my life.

You can purchase your own 2014 Day Planner and Prayer Journal combo pack for just $29.95.  Be sure to also follow A Life Well Lived on Facebook and Twitter for future promotions and special offers.

To enter the giveaway for your own A Life Well Lived Day Planner and Prayer Journal, enter HERE.

Keeping Christ in Christmas

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christmas1Gifts, holiday baking, shopping, Christmas trees, reindeer, Santa, decorating the house, Christmas parties, elf on a shelf…. Every year it seems that the focus of Christmas becomes more and more about gifts and shopping and less about the birth of our Savior. Most of us Christians, if we are honest, often get caught up in the secular excitement of the season and find it hard to balance the enjoyment of Christmas shopping and keeping the focus of Christmas on Christ. Romans 12:12 reminds us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.” How do we keep Christ in Christmas? What is the perfect medium to keeping the focus of Christmas on the birth of our Savior and still enjoy the great holiday shopping deals and buying gifts for others? Here are some fabulous suggestions from our readers and other great bloggers about how their families honor the holiness of our Savior’s birth.

Advent is the season leading up to Christmas and begins four Sundays before Christmas. Advent means “coming” and during these weeks, we devote special time remembering the coming of our Lord. We are blessed to know what God’s salvation looks like and have reason to celebrate. Here are several unique ways to observe advent:

The Ultimate Advent Bucket List for the Whole Family
Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar
30 Advent Ideas
Christmas with Advent

Christmas Bible lessons are a great way to dig deeper into the meaning of Christmas. Together as a family over a meal or individually, our hearts need to concentrate and be reminded on the reason for Christmas. Spend time reading and in prayer and allow Christ to reveal Himself more fully to you during this season.

Simple Christmas Bible Lessons
A Martyr’s Christmas Study
Printable Advent Devotional

Create specific trees to help teach the life of Christ. Have the kids build a Jesus Tree and introduce a new name for Jesus every night or a tree that chronicles the different Bible stories leading up to the birth of Christ. Having fun and learning at the same time, it’s a win-win for everyone.

The Names of Jesus
Jesse Tree
From the Jesse Tree to the Jesus Tree
Jesus Tree Readings

Christmas cards… are you more excited to send them or receive them? Be mindful about the cards you send as well as the cards you receive. Pray for the families that you send your cards to and pray for those who send you cards. Here are some crafty methods to paying for those families throughout the coming year:

Prayer Wheel
Statement Wall
Prayer Box

Make a birthday cake for Jesus and rejoice with a birthday party. After all, we are celebrating the day of our Savior’s birth and this is definitely a reason to celebrate! Don’t forget to light the candles and sing Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Happy Birthday, Jesus Cake
A Birthday Cake for Jesus

Get creative when your family retells the story of Jesus’ birth. Act it out together, make it a game, or tell the story over a period of time. Here are some fun and imaginative ways to tell the story of the nativity:

Nativity in a Box
12 Ways to Make the Christmas Story Come Alive for Kids
5 Creative Ways to Teach the Christmas Nativity Story
Creative Ways to Teach the Kids the True Meaning of Christmas
Teaching Through the Nativity

Many families have adopted the idea of giving their children three gifts for Christmas. Each gift symbolizes the three gifts Jesus received – frankincense, gold, and myrrh. This is an easy way to minimalize Christmas spending and still keeping the focus of gift-giving on Christ.

The 3-Gift Christmas
Three Gift Tradition

Keep gift giving simple. Your gifts to others do not need to be elaborate and they truly do not need to drain your bank account. Spend more time in prayer about your gifts and their meaning to the recipient and less amount of time on giving the “best” or most extravagant gift.

Homemade Christmas Gifts
Keep Christmas Gift Giving Under Control

Does your family celebrate the season in a unique fashion? Do you have special family traditions that you want to share with our readers? Leave a comment and share with us your family’s special traditions!

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Should Christians Shop on Thanksgiving Day?

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thanksDoes anyone else have a growing concern about our gradually fading Thanksgiving holiday?  Is anyone else offended that stores nationwide have already announced their Christmas shopping ads and broadcasted their earlier-than-ever Thanksgiving DAY opening times?  What was once a full day completely focused on giving thanks, relaxing, and spending time with family has now become just another day for holiday shopping.  I can only imagine this holiday will soon begin to feel like any other day as we put our selfish wants in front of the need to set aside time for rest and give thanks.

While Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, it is still a national holiday set aside for giving thanks.  This is the most perfect opportunity for Christians to stand up for what is simply “right”.  We are commanded to give thanks daily as written in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is no better opportunity for Christians to be bold and claim this ONE day a year when our entire nation sets aside to give thanks in all circumstances.  I believe it is our duty to continue this worldly tradition, if nothing else just the simple opportunity to show others the importance of being thankful in all circumstances.

What would be the negative effects if Christians surrendered to the early holiday shopping hours and disregarded a day of thanks and rest?  We would be those shoppers who told the world we care more about great holiday deals than we do about spending time with family.  We would be the shoppers who took employees away from their families and made them spend the day on their feet dealing with crowds and selfish people.  We would be the Christian shoppers who missed an opportunity to be Christ in this world by simply ignoring a national holiday for giving thanks.

So what should Christians do about the early store hours and the growing desire to skip Thanksgiving and shop all day?  Is it wrong to take advantage of some good deals?  What if we are spending time with family WHILE shopping?  What’s so bad about feasting with family, taking a long nap, and hitting the stores before midnight?

This is a question that only you can answer and it needs to be based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Does God really want you to honor this day by spending time with family?  Do you have a problem making time for family and need someone to make you take a day of rest?  Do you NEED this day to reflect on the past year?  How often do you truly give thanks in all circumstances?  Would Christians really make a difference if we all held tight to the tradition of setting aside just one day for Thanksgiving?

I believe the Thanksgiving holiday is a gift.  It’s a gift to our family – a paid holiday, a day we see family we may not always make time for, a day when we reflect on the previous year and give thanks to God for all things (including the happy times as well as the not-so-happy times), and a gift of just one day devoted to good food and rest.  A gift to be appreciated from our Father, as started in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”.

Why would we not want to take advantage of this great holiday?  Why do we want to tell the world that shopping is more important than a holiday?  Would we be okay if our employers took this paid holiday away and made us take vacation days since we aren’t using the day as a time to give thanks, the very intention of the holiday?  What would Christians think if shopping hours and great holiday deals took over Christmas day?  Would we regret allowing Thanksgiving Day to slip through our fingers?

Spend time in prayer and ask God what He wants from you.  Ask Him how he wants you to spend your Thanksgiving holiday.

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Testimony – God Had Bigger Plans for Our Family

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testimony

I was raised in a loving home with parents who cared for me and provided for me. It was not, however, what I would call a “Christian” environment. My parents both professed to be believers, but we rarely went to church.  If I did go it was either for Easter or Christmas or after spending the night with my grandparents.  We didn’t read the Bible or pray together and I was not taught biblical truth. Around age 10, my grandma sent me to pre-teen camp with her church and that is where I was “SAVED”. After camp I tried to get my family to go to church; we tried a few different churches but didn’t really connect anywhere.

For the next few years I became quite confused. I spent a few weeks every summer with a family member who belonged to a Unitarian Church which basically teaches that whatever you choose to believe in is okay.  The church openly studies all different religions believing none are right or wrong, just different. Not being told any differently, I began to agree with them.  Although I knew who Christ was and had accepted Him as my Savior, I also had the opinion that my life was MINE and I was capable of making my own decisions, without any consequences.

I began to spend a lot of time with my best friend at her house along with her older brother and his friends where there was NO parental supervision.  As a teenager, I was very interested in boys and with the lack of supervision this was not a good combination.  I began to find ways to get the boys to notice me.  And they did. I wore clothes that were too tight, too short, and way to revealing.  And they noticed. I began making out with boys much older than me hoping for love and acceptance. Not to say my parents weren’t around or didn’t care because they did, I just got to be really great at lying and sneaking around and they had no idea what I was doing.  This behavior eventually led to me deciding I was “grown” and, at the extremely misguided age of 13, I had sex for the first time. I had convinced myself that I could make my own decisions and lead my own life without the need for any adult’s guidance.  The guy that I thought cared for and LOVED me really didn’t.

When I was 14 my family moved to Greenville, TX but I continued down the path of bad choices and bad boys who were much too old for me.  I tried dating a guy my age and he was a really nice guy; he was a gentleman, treated me respectfully, and didn’t push me physically.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do with that!  I still was not going to church, not growing spiritually, and was living like a lost soul.

This is when God intervened. When I was 15, I met the guy I would eventually marry. His dad was a preacher and one of the conditions of dating him was going to his dad’s church.  Only one problem… it was all in Spanish!! I didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t know what they were talking about, and stayed confused most of the time. But I loved that guy!  Although not many changes were being made in my life, I began to learn Spanish and pay closer attention in church.

We were married when I was just 17 years old and had our first baby when I was 20. While we were still attending church with my in-laws, if we went at all, I just wasn’t being filled.  After I had my second child at the age of 22, we began the search for a new church. Once again God stepped in!  We found a church and got connected instantly; which is where we still worship today.  I began to crave more knowledge and wanted to know more about the Bible and live my life for God, not just for myself.  We had two more children when I was 25 and 28.  All four of our children were girls. Life was good. Although I had worked full-time on and off and part-time here and there, I was able to stay home majority of the time with my girls.

I was truly happy with our family but knew something was missing.  I longed for a son and repeatedly prayed for one and pleaded with God that if that was not part of His plan for my life to take that desire from me.  Just three days after giving birth to our fourth beautiful baby girl, I became ill. I spent some time in the hospital with strep and went home not knowing that the illness had caused a blood clot to form somewhere in my body.  Two months later I returned to the hospital with a pulmonary embolism and was told that if it was meant to kill me, it would have done so already.  Quite a sobering thought but God had bigger plans for my life and our family.  A loving husband, three gorgeous little girls, a two-month old precious baby, two great parents, and an amazing group of friends were all there to love on me and take care of me. What more could I have asked for? God had richly blessed me! So why did I still have a need for more? Why was I still longing for a baby boy?  I had been told by my physician that I could not have any more children.  This was something my husband and I had already decided on our own since we had four girls (that’s expensive) but being told you cannot have any more children and having someone else make that choice for you are two VERY different things.  But life went on.

In the fall of 2008, we got a strange call.  My mom had called to give us the latest saga about a family member of ours.  His two children had been removed from his care by CPS. This was actually good news for the children since he really had no business raising these kids.  We had been praying for a good home for them and a stable family to come into their lives for quite some time.  My mom proceeded to tell us of how CPS was looking for a family member to place the boys with and they had asked my parents to be that family member for them.  My parents were in their late 50s at this point with 9 grandchildren.  Needless to say, they declined.

As my husband and I were discussing the situation and how outrageous it was for them to ask my parents, my husband tells me that God was telling him that WE are supposed to be the family for those two young boys.  Now wait a minute! I love my girls but there were times I couldn’t wait to get all of them out of the house for a few hours a day! I had the older ones in school and I just had the little one at home with me during the day and had been devising a plan to get her into Mother’s Day out program. I must say though, we had also always been open to the idea of adoption and after 4 girls we teased that it was the only way we would get our boy, but this seemed so sudden and we weren’t quite prepared yet.  We agreed to pray about it, made some calls and asked some questions, but made no commitments.

One October evening I received a phone call from a social worker and was told what the process would look like and got some general information.  By this time, our prayers had changed from “Are you sure, God?” to “If this is what you want, then we trust you will make this happen”. The very next day, we received another phone call from the same social worker, that there was an infant sibling, also in state care, and asking, “Are you willing to consider placement for him as well?” STOP IT! THREE KIDS! THREE MORE KIDS? We already have four children! I mean really, who has seven kids? Nobody! [Insert more prayer here.] We just continued our prayer of, “Ok God, this is ALL you.” We decided that they were all brothers and needed to stay together. How could we one day face the two boys when they are older and say “We knew you had a brother, but that would have been too much of an inconvenience for us, so we decided to say no thanks”? We simply couldn’t do it.

We had many talks with our girls and wanted this to be a family decision. We wanted them aware of the coming changes in our lives and not to feel this was being forced on them. We began to make the necessary arrangements and to have weekly visitations at CPS with the boys. The visits were intended to be for the parents, but they hardly ever showed. We didn’t want to cause any more undue trauma for these little guys and wanted them to at least be familiar with us before they came to live with yet another family. Our two oldest boys were placed with us at ages 21 & 31 months old in February of 2009. Our youngest daughter was 18 months old at the time and had been to most of the visits with us.

There was ALOT of adjusting for everyone and a move to a bigger house; it was quite stressful, exhausting, and emotional to say the least. The Mother’s Day Out program our daughter had attended a few years earlier, wonderfully “scholarshiped” us for about 4-5 months for my sanity. Then summer activities began in addition to parent visitations with their biological parents and fighting for our youngest to be placed with us as well.  He was eventually placed in our care in October 2009 at the age of 11 months.

Although I always felt led to homeschool, even before our oldest daughter started school, the timing had just never seemed right. Our three oldest girls were in public school and our oldest boy had just begun Head Start.  He was not adjusting very well to all these transitions including school and the addition of our youngest boy.  After another move, more home studies, and more waiting, our adoption was FINALLY complete in July 2010. After a CRAZY fall semester of five kids at two different schools, two at Mother’s Day Out, a child with a broken femur, and me feeling pulled in multiple directions, God was telling us it was time to homeschool.  We pulled them out of school in January of 2011 and started our bumpy and blessed road to homeschooling. Our oldest two children were NOT happy at the time.  The 6th grader had been in either public or private school since age four and felt we were taking away her life, the 4th grader was mad because we had taken away her friends, and our oldest boy in 1st grade didn’t really seem to care either way. Our oldest child will be in high school this next school year (September 2013) and when given the choice, she chose to continue homeschooling.  In fact they all did!

It is an adventure everyday to say the least and most days are completely nuts but we won’t ever go back to public school voluntarily. I’ll admit there are days I dream about how much I could accomplish with everyone gone for 8 hours a day, but what we’re building in them every day is so much more important than homework and completed projects. I’ve told them that it would be easier for me to put them in school and let someone else teach them, but life isn’t about doing the easy thing.  It’s about doing the right thing, which means obeying God. This is what God has called us to do during this season of our lives and this is what we are going to do. I love our time together and for our large family it works perfectly. We set our own schedule and are able to keep it extremely flexible. While we didn’t have problems with the school system or any of their teachers or schools, we didn’t do well with an ISD telling us when to be where at what time and am so happy we don’t have to deal with all the new rules due to current events or any standardized testing. When I hear other parents complain about school related issues, I feel complete contentment in my heart and hear God reassuring me we are doing what He has planned for us.

About 7 years ago I got involved in a Women’s Bible study, and about 2 and a half years ago God put it on my heart to get involved with the youth.  God has been telling me to use my past mistakes and experiences to mentor young girls and help them from making the same mistakes I made as a youth. Seeing as I now have seven souls in my care, I am very passionate about teaching them God’s plan for sex and marriage.  I want them to know what I didn’t know then.  God gives us guidelines to follow in all areas of our lives for our benefit.  He knows what He is talking about. Sex is a BIG deal, it DOES matter, and it does change things!  Sex is not something you can undo.  Even though God offers forgiveness and grace, there are consequences for our sinful choices, and some can be life-long costs. I’m now trying to help young ladies to see the lies the devil is telling them and to know that the attention they receive from dressing “cute” is not the right kind of attention they really want. I truly believe that most girls don’t understand what guys are thinking when they wear certain things. Please hear my heart on this… I know from personal experience, if you don’t wait until you are married to have sex, you WILL regret it.  I don’t want that for anyone!  Sex is meant to be a special gift from God for a husband and a wife. My hope is that we can drown out the constant barrage of lies from our culture and raise-up a generation who treasures purity, a generation who is proud of their virginity and not ashamed of it, and a generation who will follow God’s plan for their lives. My hope is that we can raise a generation of Christians who can change the world for Christ.

I hope my story can help someone on a similar path. May God richly bless you as He has me!

-Lany

Christian Response to Miley Cyrus VMA Performance

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mileyOur family didn’t watch the VMA’s because quite frankly we didn’t expect anything wholesome or appropriate from the awards show.  I did, however, watch Miley’s performance on YouTube after my social media accounts were flooded with improper and derogatory comments about the poor girl, not only about her performance but about her actual life and her eternity as well.  I knew I also needed to watch the performance because, like much of America, I have teenage children in my house and needed to know what the appropriate response to their questions and statements should be.

I watched and immediately felt horror for this poor innocent child who has clearly been affected by the outside world.  What must this child, and yes Miley Cyrus is still a child at the young age of 20, have been taught (or not taught) to think this public behavior is okay?  How have we failed these Disney stars that continually seem to fall so far from their previous innocent roles on public television?

And ever so humbly, God reminded me of my teenage years.  How thankful I am that I wasn’t in the public eye for so many people who did not know me to judge my worth and eternal value!   I’m fairly certain I would have failed that test.  God reminded me that he views all sins as sins and that my sin of laziness or losing my temper with my children are just as equal in the eyes of God, which is far more important than what man believes.

As Christians, we should not be bashing this poor girl so hatefully and most definitely not so publicly.  In fact, we should not be condemning her at all.  This is where we, as Christians, must use discernment and practice biblical judgment.  Our judgment should simply be that we do not want our children listening to her music or seeing the VMA video.  Our biblical judgment must stop there.

We sin when our judgments defy the command from Paul in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  It pains me to see my brothers and sisters in Christ talk so poorly of this child of God while failing to remember their times of disobedience and immoral choices.

John 8:7 says, “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Are you my fellow Christian willing to throw that first stone?  Are you willing to bear ALL your sins on your social media status or on national television?

I challenge you brothers and sisters to spend time in prayer for Miley Cyrus.  Every time you hear about her racy video, see a comment about her life or eternity, or see the inappropriate pictures people are posting about her, to simply pray for her.  How might her life be changed if all Christians stood in the gap in complete and humble prayer for her soul?  What might her testimony be after she encounters the Holy Spirit after un-judging Christians fell to their knees and prayed for her redemption?

This should be our response.  Will you join me in praying for her?

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